Senior Warden's Report
By Ray Warren
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. This Sunday we start a new year in the Christian calendar with the First Sunday of Advent. I am away in Virginia this week, but I trust that Dave Eyer, Wendy Niven, Tim Peterson, Greta Philips-Ford and others will have the church sanctuary looking festive for the season. The Advent Candle itself is a wonderful reminder that, as life goes on, the promise of rebirth and renewal is always with us.
Christmas at St. Paul's
Probably the most difficult and weighty decision I’ve faced during my unexpected tenure as the secular leader of the parish has been what to about Christmas services. I am well aware that St. Paul’s has always been a significant part of Christmas in Key West. Many who rarely come to church on other days attend our Christmas services. Indeed, up to 600 people might join us in one of four services in a normal year.
But this year is not normal. A pandemic is claiming more people every week. A beloved member of the County Commission, his wife and child have been fighting for their lives in a Miami hospital. All of us know friends who have been stricken.
In light of the danger, I seriously pondered and prayed about canceling Christmas services at St. Paul’s entirely. We absolutely cannot endanger the community. Moreover, being known (after the fact) for a super spreader event would be devastating to our good reputation in the community and the entire country.
In consultation with the Vestry, our supply priest (Fr. Haughton) and Tim, our music director, I think we have (together) come up with a tentative plan to both observe the religious holiday and limit the danger to the community.
The current plan is to have three services. Two on Christmas Eve (at 5:30 and 8:00 PM) and a Morning Prayer service at 10:00 AM on Christmas Day. Each service will be limited strictly to 48 participants. Prior sign up will be required to assure a space. Yes, drop-ins will be accommodated, but only if there is space after all who have signed up are seated – and only up to the 48 person limit.
The 8:00 service on Christmas Eve will be broadcast live on our Facebook Page. In addition, to simulate as much as possible having a “midnight mass” late night service, the 5:30 service will be recorded and shown via Facebook Premier at 10:00 PM on Christmas Eve night.
I strongly encourage you to consider gathering your family at 10:00 PM on Christmas Eve night to join together via Facebook Premiere in the Holy Eucharist service. When a recording is shown on Facebook Premier the audience is invited to greet each other and to comment in real time just as in a live service. It is akin to a watch party, though in this case it will be a community faith gathering.
Having two Christmas (Eucharist) services early on Christmas Eve, and a Morning Prayer service (with organ) on Christmas Day is a way to allow our parishioners to attend, if they choose, in person. Not having the “midnight” service (which typically started an hour or more before midnight) reduces the chances of casual attendees who may be less familiar with our safety protocols.
Next Year, I hope St. Paul’s will be filled again - and that the happy songs of Christmas will ring out from both the organ and our voices. But we have just a bit longer in our exile from normalcy. Please keep the faith that the exile will end.